Taryn Nash took a leap of faith, and four years later the decision has turned out better than she could have dreamed.
A 2010 graduate of Truman High School, Nash recently completed an uber-successful volleyball career at Spring Hill College, an NAIA school in Mobile, Ala., where she led the Badgers to a 37-5 record and No. 20 final ranking this season. Spring Hill won the Southern States Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles after three straight tournament runner-up finishes, then won two matches in the national tournament before bowing out.
Nash was named SSAC Player and Setter of the Year and All-America honorable mention, and she finished her career as a four-time all-conference first-team selection and Spring Hill's career assist leader (5,450). Over four seasons, the Badgers went 134-20, including 49-1 in conference action, with Nash piloting the offense.
“It was more than I could’ve ever imagined accomplishing,” said Nash, who also was a two-time Academic All-American. “The other two seniors were crying (after the last loss), and I was upset we'd lost, but I had this bittersweet feeling. I couldn’t help but think there was so much to be happy about.”
After starting four seasons at Truman High School and leading the Patriots to three district titles, Nash landed at the small, Catholic college in Mobile because the chance to play for legendary coach Peggy Martin – who compiled 1,064 wins in 33 seasons at Central Missouri before retiring while Nash was in high school – and be in a different education setting proved irresistible.
“She took that job in Spring Hill, I think, the spring of my junior year, and I signed November of my senior year,” said Nash, who had attended Martin’s offseason camps while growing up.
“I signed on her word. That program hadn’t been winning at all, I think five matches the year before she got there. I trusted that we would be in a good position. Four years later I could’ve never guessed we would be in this position.
“It was just right for me,” she said of the school. “I really took a leap to go there. I knew it would be a private, Jesuit education, very similar to Rockhurst, and I knew I would take a lot of different classes. It gave me the chance to explore my horizons. The close interaction with teachers and classmates, it was perfect for me.”
Martin said she needed an all-star setter to run the show right away, and agreed Nash and Spring Hill were the perfect match.
“I had known Taryn and her family quite a while,” Martin said. “Spring Hill’s a very high academic school, and I think that was the main factor. Not only could she play right away, she could be challenged academically. It was really a good choice for her because she fit right away. We could build a program around her and some of the other players we brought in.”
Perhaps the statistic that best exemplifies Nash’s setting ability is that this season Spring Hill ranked second nationally in attack percentage (.311). Both Martin and Nash’s high school coach, Denise Craig, raved how their setter’s mind would be on same wavelength as theirs.
“I could just look at Taryn and she would know what I was thinking,” Martin said. “She has a mind of her own, but she’s always the ultimate team player. She would always put the team in position to win, and that’s the kind of setter you want. She managed the game so well.”
“You don't have to call plays with Taryn,” said Craig, calling her the best setter she’s had at Truman. “She was already calling them in her head. She just took charge.
“There was never any slacking with Taryn. She didn't appreciate it if kids didn't work hard behind her. I’m sure that's what happened to her in college. Academically, she's one of the brightest kids around. You throw all that together and you have a perfect scenario.”
Nash also played soccer at Truman starting as a defender and sometimes filling in at goalie on a team that won four straight district titles. With her mother Mendy’s volleyball pedigree – she played on Truman’s 1979 and 1980 state championship teams and has served as a club coach – Nash said volleyball came very natural when she was old enough to play, as did a leadership role.
“I was always going to touch the ball; I like that control,” she said. “It’s a role I fit naturally into.”
Next up for Nash, after she graduates in the spring as an international studies major – law school. She’s been accepted at all five schools she applied.
“I’m really, really thankful,” she said. “I have no idea what kind (of law), but I’ve heard you figure that after you start.
So while Nash figures out that next stage, her coach is left with an impossible task.
“With everything she brought to the table,” Martin said, “the leadership, overall IQ volleyball-wise – we’re not going to replace her. You hope you can bring a couple players in and they can go into that position and hopefully they studied and were students of Taryn.”